Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection usually spread person-to-person through the air. This happens when someone who is sick with the “active” disease coughs or sneezes out the germs. Anyone nearby or in an enclosed space in which the sick person spread the germs can breathe them into their lungs.
If a person is healthy, the germs might not show any effect (known as “latent ” or dormant TB infection) and is not contagious. But if someone has a weakened immune system, the TB germs may become active at any time. A person storing these germs has a 10% life-time risk that he or she will become sick and able to spread the disease to others. Some conditions, such as Diabetes, can double that risk.
Active TB is curable, but without treatment the disease usually results in death. Latent TB Infection is also treatable, either through the Health Department or a private care provider.
The usual symptoms of active TB disease are:
- A cough lasting more than a few weeks
- A cough with blood
- Loss of appetite and weight loss without dieting
- Unexplained fever/chills
- Drenching night sweats
- Extreme tiredness
- Swelling in lymph nodes
- Continual hoarseness
If you recognize several of these symptoms in yourself or others, do not delay in seeking the advice of your private health care provider or the Health Department TB Nurse. Our TB Physician, Nurse, and TB Team will manage the care of the TB patient or assist the patient’s Physician in this, at no charge. A person diagnosed with active TB needs very specialized care, requiring quarantine during the infectious period and daily visits for multiple medications.
Latent, or dormant TB: To find out if you are infected with the dormant TB germ, a simple, inexpensive test is placed on the forearm. If a result is “positive” the TB Nurse will assist you in getting a chest X-Ray and clear you for work, school, Immigration, or general health purposes. Sometimes this test may appear as a “false” positive. Only a health professional can decide if this is true for you. A new blood test is now available which is currently free through the Health Department for positive skin test reactors who want to take medicine to prevent becoming active. This is new technology, and can help us decide if the preventive treatment is correct for you.
Preventive treatment for Latent TB is also free through the Health Department. The TB Nurse will take your medical history, perform a brief physical exam, explain the medicine and determine if it is right for you, and arrange a visit with our TB Physician. Treatment is taken daily at home with an antibiotic called Isoniazid, which has been safely used since the 1960’s. You will have a monthly visit with the TB Team to refill your medication and assure you are doing well. After 9 months, a person’s risk for future disease becomes less than 1%. Another antibiotic, Rifampin, is sometimes chosen by the TB Physician. It is equally effective. Most people have no trouble taking these medications.
Contact the TB Nurses at the San Marcos Clinic Monday through Friday at 393-5569 or 393-5529.
TB testing is done Monday and Tuesday between 1pm and 4pm at the Live Oak Health Partners Community Clinic located in the Health Department building at 401-A Broadway. (You may call their front desk at 393-5520 to ask about cost and any additional times a Nurse may be available on a specific day to place a test for you.) The test must be checked by a qualified health care person 48-72 hours after the test to determine if it is “positive” or “negative”.
We are here for you – together we can beat TB!